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'Miami Beach Square' key to proposed convention center design

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The City of Miami Beach is to decide this Wednesday on a partner to develop the 52-acre Miami Beach Convention Center District. Portman-CMC is one of two development teams vying for the project. Examiner.com recently chatted with Jack Portman, vice chairman of Portman Holdings, about his firm's vision for the city.

Q: How did you come up with your vision for the proposal?

Sometimes, vision strikes you the minute you open your eyes and other times it evolves. In this case, it was a bit of the latter because there were so many different components for the project. There was the proposed hotel and also all the land around it and so we had to come up for a combination of components that would create the right energy and make it a dynamic and stimulating place.

Q: A proposed Miami Beach Square is central to your plan. How did you come up with the idea?

It occurred to us that although Miami Beach us a world-class city, it did not have a plaza or any other type of central meeting place. So this is what gave us the idea. A central square would also tie together the convention center with all of the other great neighboring attributes, including the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, the Holocaust Memorial and the (New World Symphony) Soundscape.

Q: How will such a town square compliment Lincoln Road?

Lincoln Road is one of the world's top-notch shopping streets, but it's long and linear. We didn't want to duplicate the feeling of Lincoln Road, we wanted to figure out how to engage it, enhance it and make its energy even better.

Q: What is another feature of your plan that you feel will help make the area dynamic?

A key decision we made centers on the convention center ballroom. Conventional thinking would have us put it atop the convention center but we decided to put it on the ground to make it more accessible to the community. Booking convention center dates would have priority, but the ballroom would be available at other times so residents could book it for balls, graduations, and other events.

Q: How have you gathered community input?

I've met with everybody and anybody time and time again. Neighborhood groups, retail groups, housing organizations, we've met with everyone that could have an interest and we've taken everything into consideration.

Q: Tell me how you envision your concept coming to life.

We would be creating an area where you could bring your family. You could walk to Lincoln Road to shop, then go to an activity at Soundscape and then return to the Miami Beach Square for ice cream. It would be a full day of activity. This is the kind of place that Portman has built everywhere and that's why we're successful.

More info: Portman-CMC Miami Beach

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